The new European Commission led by Ursula von der Leyen is in office and it has committed to accelerating decarbonisation in Europe as a major priority. However, this also needs to be adequately reflected in European external relations. A policy brief by adelphi and the Institute for European Studies at the Free University of Brussels (VUB) sets out five areas of action to address the foreign policy challenges of decarbonisation within the framework of the European Green Deal, including trade, finance, education and security – in addition to climate and energy policy.
The 2015 Paris Agreement charts the course for climate policy action up to the end of the century. Having committed to the goal of limiting warming to well below 2°C or even 1.5°C, many countries are now implementing measures to decarbonise their economies. Crucial to these efforts will be the long-term transition away from fossil fuels to a more sustainable, low-carbon energy supply. By presenting its long-term vision in 2018, the European Commission has outlined how to realise a carbon-neutral Europe by the middle of the century, even if the official adoption is still missing. Lowering greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in time to meet the Paris Agreement’s goals necessitates deep, structural changes to existing economic development patterns. Given different countries’ varying natural resources, political circumstances and levels of development, the transition is likely to take divergent trajectories in each country - especially outside the EU.
adelphi and the Institute for European Studies at the Free University Brussels analysed the potential role of the EU’s external relations and summarised the findings from the report “The geopolitics of decarbonisation” in this policy brief. It focuses on six fossil fuel exporting countries whose resources play an important role in their relations with the EU and analyses how they may be affected by the decarbonisation of Europe.
The case studies – Azerbaijan, Canada, Colombia, Indonesia, Nigeria and Qatar – revealed a variety of ways in which fossil fuel exporters or, more generally, carbon-dependent economies may be vulnerable to the global transition away from coal, oil, natural gas and other emission-intensive products that should see falling demand under decarbonisation. Furthermore, several challenges and opportunities were identified that the foreign policy community should take into consideration when striving to make the European Green Deal, as announced by Ursula von der Leyen in her new role as president of the Commission, a part of EU external relations.